A former soldier has built a quite incredible Iron Man suit out of steel – complete with lights and voice-changing, retractable helmet – to entertain sick children in hospital.
After regular visits to hospital to see his son – who was born three months premature – Barry Armstead says he was inspired after seeing volunteers dressed as characters from Star Wars and the video game series Halo.
“My wife and I spent much time in the hospital, seeing how bleak it could be for those in the wards,” said Barry, 47. “I saw volunteers dressed as superheroes doing charity work for kids and thought I’d like to do that too.”
Years on, Barry’s son is now five and his superhero costume, inspired by Marvel’s Iron Man character, is one of the finest you’ll ever see.
The suit, which has taken Barry three years to make, is made from steel – which he decided on after failed attempts to make one out of paper and fibreglass.
Barry, who spent 16 years in the Australian army, has been working on the suit in his evenings after work as a parks fields officer at an Australian nature reserve.
Barry used the welder in the park’s workshop before finishing the rest at home, often working late into the night.
“I’ve had two more kids since then, (four total) and it has heavily affected my moods, my spare time with them and my lovely lady,” said Barry. “On top of that I have had to be creative in funding it as I cannot afford to dip into my family income.”
To fund the build and refine his skills, Barry turned to bladesmithing under the tuition of local knife makers. He built his own forge and tools, then started making knives – eventually getting good enough at it to sell them and fund making the suit.
Barry says to make the suit he has had to learn panel beating – a way of shaping metal often used for vehicle repairs – as well as sewing, robotics, chemistry and physics – to name but a few.
“The toughest part has been the animatronics, geared mechanism for the faceplate and the lighting and sound effects,” said Barry. “I’ve had to step up as a project manager and bring in external expertise to build the things I can’t.
“Some guys have built electronics for me and I have installed them, others have instructed me over the internet.
“So many people stepped up to help me with this cause,” said Barry. “Many offered simple encouragement and advice, others donated small amounts of money, some donated consumables and others sent me hand and power tools in the mail.”
Asked what advice he would give to someone trying to make a similar suit, Barry said: “Prepare yourself!
“Part of my motivation here though is to share with the world that anyone can do these things with limited tools and training, as I have no formal qualifications or trades, just a can-do approach and am never afraid to make mistakes and learn.”
It’s a suit Tony Stark would be proud of. Barry hopes by sharing his journey to building the suit he will be invited by hospitals to make an appearance.
“Hopefully some will fly me in to spend a couple of hours in their wards,” said Barry.
For more videos and information on how Barry made the suit, check out his YouTube page.